Of the two, I prefer Mayer's piece-- you can tell it's written by someone with experience in education. Nothing against Martin's piece, but he's the LFP's politics reporter. From Mayer's article:
County council decided earlier this year to poll other small municipalities at risk of losing schools and form a coalition to fight what it saw as a flawed accommodation review process and its impact on “the socio-economic fabric” of communities.As a media-seat viewer to the Middlesex County accommodation reviews that provided the genesis for the CSA, I have some unique perspective to the background and context at hand here. There are two completed ARCs in the county -- a 'north/east' one with five schools, and a 'west' one with five schools. In both cases, the committees' recommendations did not include any school closures -- in fact, from the first round of 10 ARCs at the TVDSB, I would say the 'west' ARC was the only one to present a volley of recommendations with some real meat to them. The committee had a commitment from local municipalities and even a neighbouring First nation that tentatively supported its recommendations. Up to that point, its report was the most innovative response I'd seen as a result of the ARC process. Currently, there are no ARCs happening in Middlesex County. London and Oxford have borne the brunt of the 15 ARCs commissioned in the TVDSB to-date-- with five apiece. (Which when complete, may change Aranha's much-touted analysis)
Niagara-on-the-Lake, which stands to lose its only high school if 350 students don’t attend by Oct. 31, got involved after Town Coun. Jim Collard met Doug Reycraft, Southwest Middlesex Mayor and alliance chairman, at an Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) meeting, and discovered what their municipalities had in common.
“Really, you just change a couple of words and it could have been our area very easily,” (NOTL Lord Mayor Gary) Burroughs said after hearing the same story at the group’s first meeting two weeks ago.
Burroughs said the group’s mandate is to make boards more accountable for its decisions to close schools and give communities the chance to appeal those rulings.
These two Middlesex ARCs also presented the board with two of its three administrative reviews to-date. David Cooke came out on two occasions after review petitions were accepted by the ministry. His first report here, second here. I've blogged about portions of his second report recently, particularly his recommendation the board do a better job of overtly explaining why it prefers schools with student populations in the 350-400 range (Most of the Middlesex schools recommended for closure are full, but smaller than that). The board got the message-- take a look at the minutes from an Ingersoll-Beachville ARC to see some of that rationale.
These politicians are entitled to lobby for the interests of their communities. However I doubt Minister Kathleen Wynne or the Ministry of Education is going to do any more than what's already done in releasing revised guidelines. The province has always maintained these are local decisions, left to local school boards and their locally elected trustees. I would challenge its members to broaden their horizons however, and allow politicians from any community to join. Rural areas and small towns don't have a monopoly on 'community schools,' and the growth in their numbers if these other communities could join would have an impact. I doubt the group would allow that, given its focus on how school closures are just another element in the destruction of rural Ontario.
As an aside, this is not the first such group-- early in the world of ARCs the Coalition for Small Schools was formed and still exists. They've been rather silent lately.